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indepent review of 4 Oakland PO murders


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  • indepent review of 4 Oakland PO murders

    An independent report on the March 2009 slayings of four Oakland police officers released Wednesday concluded that two SWAT team members lost their lives in a poorly planned "ad hoc" raid in search of the killer that should have been called off.

    "The failure of the senior command to stop the raid and implement other tactical alternatives was of serious concern," said a panel of law enforcement veterans who held three days of hearings last fall into the slayings of SWAT team Sgts. Ervin Romans and Daniel Sakai, along with Sgt. Mark Dunakin and Officer John Hege.

    The deadly raid at an East Oakland apartment was ordered in the aftermath of the fatal shootings of Dunakin and Hege during a traffic stop at MacArthur Boulevard and 74th Avenue at 1:15 p.m. March 21.

    Police quickly identified the killer, 26-year-old parolee and rape suspect Lovelle Mixon, who ran from his car after the slayings. Within about 30 minutes, two police lieutenants fielded tips that Mixon had fled around the corner to a ground-floor apartment at 2755 74th Ave., the report found.

    Without a clear leader, plan of action, layout of the apartment or even an ambulance standing by, a skeleton team of SWAT officers who had never worked together was ordered to storm the apartment, the investigators found.

    Romans was shot immediately, but rather than retreating to safety - which the investigators said would have been the correct action - the SWAT team pressed its raid.

    Sakai then was shot to death, and another officer was wounded before the SWAT team killed Mixon.

    OPD's worst tragedy
    The investigators wrote that the Oakland Police Department ordered the probe to learn what led up to "the greatest tragedy in OPD history."

    Police Chief Anthony Batts said at a news conference late Wednesday that the public has a "misperception" that "everything went wrong" on March 21.

    Batts pointed to "very good and solid decisions, many courageous, selfless acts," citing everything from the help police got from citizens at the scene to officers' fast work in cordoning off the area to keep Mixon at the scene.

    At the same time, Batts endorsed the probe's findings about what went wrong. The chief said he will hold his staff accountable for the events of that day. He stressed that he has ordered new training and other reforms. "We will correct those areas that we were flawed in," he said. "We will improve."

    Series of missteps
    The events began with the traffic stop in which Dunakin and Hege both approached Mixon's car from the driver's side, a tactical misstep that made them more vulnerable, according to the report. Neither officer had drawn his weapon, and both were "methodically shot."

    Then came a series of miscommunications and mistakes likely to haunt the department for years.

    A total of 115 officers from Oakland and other agencies converged on the area after the shootings, but no one set up a command post and no clear leader of the search for Mixon was identified, the report found. It took senior Oakland police officials more than 90 minutes to arrive.

    In the meantime, the first lieutenant on the scene, Drennon Lindsey, talked to a woman she considered credible who reported seeing Mixon entering the 74th Avenue apartment building, the report said. Another lieutenant, Ersie Joyner, learned from an informant that Mixon was holed up at that same address.

    The report does not name the officers involved, but sources close to the department identified them to The Chronicle.

    'Self-assigned' leader
    Joyner gave his information to a third lieutenant, Chris Mufarreh, who had taken on what the report described as the "self-assigned" leadership of the operation. Mufarreh, however, was skeptical of Joyner's tip, because the informant did not report actually seeing Mixon go inside.

    At 2:38 p.m., before SWAT hostage negotiators, snipers or support officers had arrived, Mufarreh "ordered an ad hoc entry team to be formed" from SWAT members on hand, "an action contrary to departmental policy," the investigators said.

    About this time, Deputy Chief David Kozicki finally arrived, the report said, and at 2:50 p.m. he, Lindsey, Mufarreh and Capt. Rick Orozco all conferred in the middle of the street. Lindsey told the commanders about her tip, seemingly confirming that Mixon was in the building, but they "disregarded the relevance of the information," the report said.

    Mufarreh, still believing the risk to officers was "very low" as it was "highly unlikely" Mixon was inside, pushed for the raid before a full team was in place, the report said.

    Kozicki, who by virtue of his rank was now the incident commander, asked whether police needed a search warrant, but the other officers said no because police were in "fresh pursuit" of a suspect.

    "This fact was particularly troubling," the investigators said. "If the staff truly believed there was little probability of the suspect's presence, there could be no fresh pursuit exemption from the warrant requirement."

    'Are you OK with this?'
    Orozco approved of the raid without comment, then went to Kozicki and asked, "Are you OK with this?" the report said.

    Kozicki asked about an ambulance being on hand, but otherwise approved.

    "Instead of recognizing the absence of one of the most fundamental steps in tactical planning" - having an ambulance standing by in case of casualties - Orozco "allowed the tactical plan to move forward," the report said.

    Police never took basic steps, such as trying to contact Mixon by phone or other means inside the apartment, and evacuating neighbors who could be in harm's way, the investigators said.

    Instead, after a "limited and rushed" meeting and "rather than stop a flawed plan," Kozicki and Orozco approved it, the report found.

    Kozicki has announced plans to retire. Other officers cited in the report could face disciplinary action, sources say.

    Attorney defends cops
    Michael Rains, an attorney who represents Kozicki, Orozco and Mufarreh, said missteps made in the heat of a confrontation should not lead to discipline.

    "This was a mess," Rains said. "The OPD had never seen something like this. The way the department was set up, they didn't have the people on duty that should have been on duty. It was a complete formula for disaster."

    He said Mufarreh, who was not even on duty that day, had tried to bring order to a chaotic scene, doing everything from fielding phone calls to directing traffic.

    "What angers me most is that they are talking about punishing somebody who wasn't supposed to be working, drove out there when he heard officers needed help," Rains said. "You talk about the wrong message, that is the wrong one."

    The panel was led by the former police chief of Pasadena and included representatives from the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, Los Angeles Police Department and Alameda County Sheriff's Department.
    Last edited by Nobody; 03-02-2010, 01:31 PM.

  • #2
    I had read some time ago that there were some major mistakes made during this operation. I don't understand why OPD doesn't have a command staff officer on duty at all times to take charge of any major incident. I would think that a dept. of that size would have a fully staffed SWAT team on duty, available 24 hours a day.

    In all my years experience involving major incidents, setting up a command post was one of the first things we did. Hopefully this type of incident doesn't happen again.
    Retired LASD


    • #3
      Originally posted by Nobody View Post

      thoughts? For one, coming from a fire/rescue background originally - i don't understand why LE is so set against training/using the incident command system (ICS).

      Other than that, i'm glad to see they took a bare bulb look at what transpired - at least (hopefully) the deaths will result in future saved lives. I also hope the final judgement of 'fault' will be done in the light of what was known at the time...but if SOP's were ignored, then there needs to be accountability - just because something bad happens, doesn't mean the rules go out the window.

      RIP officers,

      edit: cant spell independent
      I also was with fire prior to being a copper. Our dept is really good about setting up a cp and establishing command of an incident. The purpose of these probes are to learn from our own and each other's mistakes. That is why we debrief after incidents. I hope everything works out for the officers involved and training improves. Hopefully with a dept of their size, they can work towards a full time SWAT team.


      • #4
        audio here

        it's long, and frantic - as any situation that chaotic would be.
        It sounds like they didn't get an ICS going until about an hour after the incident began.
        Last edited by AZLawDawg; 01-07-2010, 12:00 PM.
        "People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf." - Orwell


        • #5
          Originally posted by GB0610
          Some good points in this after action review.

          But I do have one question that this report raises...

          The report said there was a "fundamental error" when the two motors officers approached the care from the drivers side. Although there are many ways to approach a vehicle, I didn't know that the driver side approach is no longer sound. Someone explain to me why an Officer approaching the driver side window is now a clearly less tactical approach.
          Maybe they both approached from the driver's side?
          Last edited by DAL; 01-07-2010, 08:01 PM.
          Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored. -- Aldous Huxley
          Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity. -- Albert Einstein


          • #6
            Someone explain to me why an Officer approaching the driver side window is now a clearly less tactical approach.
            That's where they expect you. Plus, most of the population is right-handed so it's easier for them turn around and shoot you while they are getting out of the car. You can also see into the car better from the passenger side.


            • #7
              Originally posted by GB0610
              If thats the case, then the comment in the report makes sense. But that would not have prevented at least one officer from getting shot. And depending how shortly after they dismounted from their bikes, it may still not have been preventable. .
              We don't get specific with tactics on a public forum.

              Lets just say....the manner in how you approach.... may have had a different outcome.

              Here is the report:

              Hindsight is always 20/20. Mark, John, Dan and Erv....may you all rest in peace.
              Last edited by deputy x 2; 01-07-2010, 11:46 PM.
              This profession is not for people looking for positive reinforcement from the public. Very often it can be a thankless job and you can't desire accolades, because those are not usually forthcoming. Just do your job to the best of your ability and live with the decisions you've made.


              • #8
                Hanging folk out to dry will not solve a damn thing. This thing was fluid from start to finish.


                • #9
                  [ffffffht tp://
                  Last edited by Nobody; 03-02-2010, 01:33 PM.


                  • #10
                    Regarding the initial traffic stop- I personally believe that the cover officer on a vehicle stop belongs up on the vehicle. Not back with me as I write my cite. If you are up on the vehicle watching the driver/passengers serve as a visible deterrent, and you can react quickly should someone start reaching around, etc.

                    If both officers hang back from the vehicle, that allows the offender to reach for his gun undetected, grab it undetected, and then exit the vehicle before the officers can react.

                    Would Mixon have reached for his gun that day with an officer up on his car? Probably. But the outcome may have been on the officers side.


                    • #11
                      It is so sad to read about these four Oakland officers. I can only shake my head. When will this all stop?

                      Way back in the 1980's when I attended numerous Street Survival seminars, we analyzed the infamous 1970 Newhall massacre where four California Highway Patrol (CHP) officers died on the same vehicle stop. I will never forget seeing a photograph of those four uniformed CHP bodies laying side by side on four separate gurneys. We were informed that this particular incident was a wakeup call to all police departments to revamp their training procedures and officer survival skills.

                      I was so concerned about officer survival procedures that I attended these seminars at my own expense. The sad part was that I was the only officer from my agency who attended them.

                      So when I read about these four Oakland California officers and those four Lakewood Washington officers, it makes me wonder if we truly are learning from the mistakes of others or not.

                      If you want to read more about the Newhall massacre, visit
                      Last edited by BAinCJ; 01-12-2010, 10:13 PM.
                      Living it one day at a time.


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